Knowledge Systems for Urban Stewardship: Exploring the Role of Civic Knowledge Systems in Environmental and Sustainability Governance

Authors: Tischa Muñoz-Erickson*, USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Elizabeth Cook, Urban Systems Lab, The New School, Robert Hobbins, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Michelle Johnson, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, David Iwaniec, Urban Studies Institute, Georgia State University, Lindsay Campbell, USDA Forest Service, Norther Research Station
Topics: Environment, Urban and Regional Planning, Sustainability Science
Keywords: environmental stewardship, civic knowledge, knowledge systems, sustainability governance, urban
Session Type: Paper


Urban environmental and natural resource scholars and practitioners increasingly recognize the value of civic knowledge to enhance stewardship and sustainability governance in cities. Local civic knowledge expands the technical and scientific knowledge base with locally-based knowledge gained from living or taking care of a place. Civic actors, including residents, non-governmental organizations, indigenous communities and landowners, are increasingly engaged in collaborative management, knowledge co-production, or citizen science efforts. Yet, little attention has been paid to understanding how civic groups come to know the city, and how they put this knowledge to work through stewardship activities. In this paper we explore urban environmental stewardship through the framework of knowledge systems. Knowledge systems allow us to explore how practices, rationalities, and networks shape stewardship. For example, though understanding knowledge systems, we can ask, how stewardship groups come to know the urban environment, how this knowledge circulates (or not) across their networks, and how it is used to frame their stewardship work. We draw from examples in the literature and our own experience studying stewardship organizations in cities like San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Valdivia, Chile, to characterize and further understand the role of civic knowledge systems in urban environmental stewardship. In order to enhance sustainability capacities and natural resource management in cities, we suggest it is essential to acknowledge the role of civic knowledge systems as a key component in multi-level sustainability governance.

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